UDOH: Suicides, Drug Overdoses Did Not Increase During Pandemic
Jan 28, 2021, 10:31 AM | Updated: 11:44 am
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – COVID-19 has taken a toll not only on Utahns’ physical health but also on their mental health.
Fortunately, according to a new report from the Utah Department of Health, there has not been a significant increase in suicides or drug overdoses during the pandemic.
However, experts have stressed that services and support must continue to be provided to individuals in crisis.
According to a statement from UDOH, the long-term effects of the pandemic is yet to be seen. But preliminary data shows that, so far, there have been no significant increases in suicides, mental distress or drug overdoses.
“We are fortunate to have a robust data system in place to monitor trends in social and behavioral health outcomes,” according to Michael Staley, suicide prevention research coordinator with the UDOH Office of the Medical Examiner. “We must remain vigilant. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and there is work for every Utahn ahead. As much as we are relieved that suicides and overdoses have not increased yet, suicide rates remain high. Experts predict that the impact of the pandemic can occur much later, after the pandemic ends. We must continue to strengthen the prevention infrastructure and work together to end suicide.”
This is not meant to minimize the tragedy and sadness and reality of every suicide.
— State of Utah COVID-19 Response (@UtahCoronavirus) January 28, 2021
The report notes that it is crucial for public health officials to continue monitoring indicators of mental health issues, drug abuse and suicide ideation as the pandemic continues to unfold.
“The pandemic has impacted Utahns in significant ways, yet this report shows Utahns are resilient,” said Gov. Spencer Cox. “Despite these difficult times, there is hope. We are not powerless to the difficult circumstances around us. I encourage all Utahns to continue to lift each other up and provide the support we all need during these challenging times.”
The recent data shows deaths from drug overdoses for the first 39 weeks of 2020 were consistent with the drug overdose count from 2019. The number was actually lower than the drug overdose deaths in 2018.
The preliminary data also shows that the overall trend of suicide attempts has remained stable in Utah. The number of suicide deaths did not increase in the first 39 weeks of 2020, and has been consistent in the state for the previous 3 years.
“We have seen modestly declining suicide rates in Utah since 2017-18, despite suicide rates continuing to rise across the country,” said Amy Mikkelsen, suicide prevention coordinator at the UDOH. “And, fortunately, the pandemic doesn’t appear to have impacted our progress.”
According to the statement from the health department, other key findings from the report include:
- The number of drug overdoses reported to emergency departments remained stable through the first 50 weeks of 2020.
- Syringe service utilization increased in the first eight months of 2020 (compared to 2019), but this increase is likely due to expansion of services across the state. Syringe services are an essential service that continues to be used during the pandemic.
- There was no significant difference in the rate of Utah adults reporting frequent mental distress from March through August of 2019 compared with the same time period in 2020 (13.5% and 13.4%, respectively).
- Calls to the Suicide Prevention CrisisLine increased throughout the first 10 months of 2020, but this growth is similar to increases in previous years.
- While there isn’t information available on an increased volume of domestic violence related calls on a statewide level, anecdotal evidence from local law enforcement and victim service agencies seem to indicate an escalation of family violence.
Read the full report here:
Social and Behavioral Health During COVID-19
SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Additional Crisis Hotlines
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
- University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300
In an emergency
- Call 911
- Go to the emergency room